By David Dent
A group of friends welcome their mate Seth (Sean Rey) back from South America where, unbeknownst to them but not the viewer, he has become embroiled with a demonic cult, worshipping an ancient entity called Belial. “I’ve got a job for you,” the demon tells Seth, sparing his life, and before you know it, Seth’s back in Canada (Toronto specifically), inviting said friends over to try out a mind expanding new drug, Changa, that he’s brought back from his hols.
Best mates Jake (Sebastian Deery) and Tyson (Chris Kapeleris) and their sort of girlfriends Heather (Dominique Smith) and Brooke (Natalie Jane) are up for a party, but the girls’ hanger on goody two shoes chum Maryssa (Kearsten Johansson) is less keen. But, aiming to shrug off her butter wouldn’t melt reputation, she’s first to take a hit of the drug.
Oh dear. Bum trip ensues, via a psych out backdrop, leading her to come to her senses in a rocky place which might be hell and where Belial hangs out. A bond of sorts is established between them, meaning that Belial can come to earth in her form and get up to no good, like murdering Seth, while the real Maryssa experiences all of Belial’s wickedness through her eyes, while throwing up a lot of blood.
Implicated in Seth’s death (it doesn’t help that one of his ears is found on her person) Maryssa is incarcerated for her own good, but the murders continue, so she’s off the hook; this time it’s Tyson, who, before he’s eviscerated, is visited by the spirits of four topless cheerleaders.
Maryssa and the others learn that the drug has opened some kind of gateway between worlds that allows Belial to reach through and collect souls; once he has enough, attained via his link with Maryssa, he can establish himself on earth as the Antichrist.
“I am what hell fears,” says Belial at one point, but you can’t help feeling that he’s not that ambitious, staking his big comeback on a group of twenty-teens who would, in any other horror movie, all be the first to die.
It’s possible that writer and director Alan Murray may have seen a few episodes of ‘American Gods’ but both his budget and reach are far more modest, so his debut feature gets by on some mid 90s gaming CGI and wobbly practical effects. The movie this more accurately brought to mind was Jeffrey Hunt’s 2016 movie ‘Satanic.’ Both are largely filmed in broad daylight where the horrors on display have to complete with mid-morning sunlight on fifteen-year-old interiors (and that’s about as spooky as it sounds).
On the plus side ‘Beyond Hell’ is quite a lively movie and even if it doesn’t make much sense it’s far from unwatchable; there’s a certain comfort in knowing that bashful and shy Maryssa (played with initial wide eyed innocence by Johansson) will be the movie’s final girl. The Belial character seems to find everything insanely funny (in a ‘you puny humans’ style) and his makeup renders much of his dialogue semi incoherent. I actually didn’t mind this, although goodness knows who the target audience is. Best line is a sentient being, in the guise of a doctor, when asked if he’s a god? “There are many realms and gods, you primitive, hairless ape,” he responds.
Watch the trailer for Beyond Hell below –